I am reading Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government. In Chapter 6 and 7, evidence is shown that "voters' retrospective assessments of the economy are quite myopic." For example, Chapter 7 looks at the landslide victory of Roosevelt in 1936 as a sort of case study, and shows (p191, emphasis mine):

Even in the remarkable circumstances prevailing in 1936, voters were focused on concrete economic conditions that they could see and feel when they went to the polls. Specifically, they were focused on income gains or losses over the course of the election year. Income growth earlier in Roosevelt's term, which contributed as much or more to their economic well-being, had no apparent electoral effect. That was water under the bridge. Roosevelt's reelection in 1936—and the New Deal realignment—depended crucially on a positive balance of answers to the question, "What have you done for us lately?"

They present a statistical analysis in support of this view, but I do not fully understand the presented data (likely due to my lack of knowledge about statistics).

Table 7.1 (p187), or similar results which are presented in Table 1 of Achen & Bartels (2004), uses "ordinary least squares regression parameter estimates" to indicate that "[in] every case, whereas election-year [1936] income growth has a strong positive effect on Roosevelt’s vote, previous income growth [1933-1935] has little or no effect."

It is my understanding (possibly wrong and the root of my confusion), that for them to be able to perform these statistics they would need to poll for the popular vote in the intermediate years between elections. If this were true, and with the explanation of myopic voting in mind, would you then not expect the popular vote to be higher due to recent income growth (at the time of the poll), similar to as is shown for 1936? Or, does 'myopic voting' for some reason only apply to election years?

Achen, C. H., & Bartels, L. M. (2004). Musical Chairs: Pocketbook Voting and the Limits of Democratic Accountability. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.

  • I am fairly certain I must be wrong, and that these statistics are not based on a " need to poll for the popular vote in the intermediate years between elections". Any clarification to explain what it is based on would be most helpful. – Steven Jeuris Dec 25 '18 at 14:29
  • A statistical model is presented, which presumably did not conform to the facts. If the model is flawed, that doesn't necessarily imply that the voters are or were impaired... the body politic might be endowed with other senses or faculties which have no organic analog. – agc Dec 27 '18 at 15:22
  • @StevenJeuris If you are still following this Question, can you explain why you think that they would need to measure the popular vote? I'm looking at the chapters and pages you mentioned, and it isn't clear why you would expect the popular vote to matter. – indigochild Jan 23 at 19:40
  • @indigochild How do they measure electoral effect of intermediate years? As I said, most likely a lack of knowledge about the statistics used. – Steven Jeuris Jan 24 at 7:24

The Hypothesis - No Need to Measure Off-Year Electoral Support

They do not attempt to measure electoral support in any year except 1936. Forgetting the statistics for a moment, they are using Roosevelt's 1936 re-election as a case study. They would like to explain why the percentage of people voting for Roosevelt in 1936 increased or decreased in certain states.

Their suggested explanation for these changes is that in areas where income rose in 1936 people voted for Roosevelt. Given this hypothesis there is no need to measure electoral support in off years.

However, they are concerned with showing that income growth in other years is less influential on voting in 1936. This is the core of the "myopic" part of "myopic voting". Other theories had suggested that voters were more rational and would consider their income growth across a politician's entire term. Bartels (et al.) are disputing this.

In order to accomplish this they need to measure income growth in 1933-1936. These are the potential causes they are evaluating. In their hypothesis (and their model) income growth in each year is compared to the 1936 election.

Here's a diagram showing this: enter image description here

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    I do feel the main misunderstanding stems from not being certain about the statistics, so let me try to formulate my current understanding. They verify the correlation between income growth in 1936 and votes for Roosevelt. If I understand correctly, the only reason they can do so is because there are 50 states, thus there are 50 data points. For 1936, these data points show an overall positive correlation (thus generally speaking, states with income growth voted for, and vice versa). When doing the same calculation for other years, there is no such observed correlation. Is this right? – Steven Jeuris Feb 1 at 13:24
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    @StevenJeuris Thanks. That helps me target my answer. I will add something more specifically addressing that. – indigochild Feb 1 at 16:42
  • Notify me when you get around to doing so. Your answer already helped me better reason about the question. I expect I can likely accept it at that point. – Steven Jeuris Feb 3 at 10:33

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